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India gears up, sets up space network

With just over 4 months to go for Chandrayaan-1, ISRO puts up a deep space network near B'lore with a dish antenna.

india Updated: Dec 15, 2007 18:12 IST

The Indian space agency (ISRO) has put up a deep space network (DSN) near Bangalore with a 32-metre dish antenna for its first lunar exploration mission Chandrayaan-1 due in April next year.

"The DSN will provide tracking and command support for our unmanned moon mission, scheduled for launch in mid-April from the Satish Dhawan space centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh, using the indigenous polar satellite launch vehicle (PSLV)," a top space agency official said here on Saturday.

The first lunar mission is estimated to cost the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) about Rs.3.6 billion.

As part of the ground support, the network being set up at Byalalu, about 40 km from India's IT hub, will be used to send commands and receive telemetry signals, including massive data from the spacecraft while orbiting around the moon at a whopping distance of 385,000 km away from the earth.

"The DSN, set up at an upfront cost of Rs.1 billion in this vast 120-acre campus, will be the base station for not only the lunar missions (Chandrayaan-I & II), but also for our future planetary exploration missions like Mars, which is about 60 million km away," ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC) director S.K. Shivakumar told reporters on a visit to the facility.

Before ISRO embarks on deep space exploration in the next decade, the network will track its proposed Astrosat, a space telescope designed to scout for galactic clusters, new stars beyond the Milky Way and a variety of cosmological phenomenon.

The indigenously-built network has another 18-metre dish antenna, designed and fabricated by Vertex RSI of Germany. State-owned Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and leading manufacturing firms such as L&T and Godrej & Boyce in the private sector were roped in to set up the massive network.

"ECIL has designed and developed the 180-degree panel reflector for the 32-metre antenna, which cost us Rs.600 million. The command station includes a spacecraft control centre, a space science data centre and an international ground station augmentation. All systems connected with the lunar mission are being tested in the run-up to the launch, which has been tentatively fixed for April 9, 2008," Shivakumar said.